The world celebrates Emily Dickinson as one of the greatest poets in American history. Though most of her poetry was written in the 19th century, her bold style of writing made her a predecessor of Modern poetry. One of her most famous poems is dubbed There Came a Wind like a Bugle that was written in 1883 (Day-Lindsey, 2009). Critics of the time paid little regard to her work because it did not adhere to the styles of writing in the 19th century. However, although most of her work was published after her death, Emily Dickinson is important to society as her work paved the way for a new generation of writers including women in literary works.
In the poem, There Came a Wind like a Bugle, the writer describes the approach and intensity of a powerful storm. The writer begins by describing the wind, stating that its sound resembled that of a bugle. Throughout the poem, she emphasizes the shrill, deafening feature of the storm’s noise. Through the use of a natural event, the writer makes this point: Despite the natural catastrophes that people face, the world still endures. Therefore, amidst the catastrophe people are often left with a sense of wonder. This poem is different from her earlier works as it does not adopt the light-hearted quality of her riddles regarding unnamed objects (Day-Lindsey, 2009). Some critics believe that the poem is used to describe an emotionally destructive event in the life of the poet. In 1883, there was a typhoid outbreak in Amherst, Massachusetts, which claimed the life of Dickinson’s nephew. Resultantly, the writer describes this devastating loss through the use of a storm (Day-Lindsay, 2009). Other critics believe that during the period of 1866-1886 the writer suffered from deteriorating health that is reflected in her poems during this period (Bloom, 2008).
The beginning of the poem presents an interesting simile describing the intensity of the wind. The writer uses the term bugle. Bugles were used in the military to direct soldiers to attack or to prepare them for an incoming attack (Day-Lindsey, 2009). The writer states that the wind came in the form of a bugle, in doing so, the writer creates a looming feeling of approaching disaster. The use of this simile at the start of the poem brings a sense of unease. According to Day-Lindsey, a bugle is a conical device, which is tapered at one end and gradually ﬂares out to the opposite end. This design is similar to the funnel of a tornado. Therefore, by stating that the wind came in the form of a bugle, the writer also captures the immediate environmental changes that signify the onset of a tornado (Day-Lindsey, 2009).
The writer places the subjects of sentences at the end of the paragraph. For example, ‘On a strange mob of planting trees (9)’, or, ‘And fences fled away (10)’.This style makes the work appealing, as it challenges the audience to seek further clarification. For example, in the 9th line, the term ‘on’ compels the readers to ask themselves, ‘On what?’ It is only by reading the paragraph that the reader will be able to comprehend (Bloom, 2008). This style was previously regarded as a grammatical error but is now celebrated as a unique style characteristic of Dickinson’s work. The use of metaphors is also evident, for example, ‘panting trees shaking in the wind’ and ‘the rivers where the houses ran’. The use of metaphors gives a vivid image of events that took place during the storm.
The writer capitalizes each word for emphasis. This style is characteristic of most of her works. In the poem, each line begins with a capital letter. Some critics state that the use of capitalization is for the purpose of emphasis, whereas, others state that her use of this style is at times idiosyncratic and more random than meaningful (Boom, 2008). There is also the use of a dash in most of the lines of the poem. The dash functions as a parenthetical device for the purpose of emphasis. However, some critics argue that the dash is used as a substitute for the colon (Boom, 2008). Dickinson concludes her work with an exclamation mark for the purpose of stressing on the wonder of the world rather than nature (Boom, 2008).
Dickinson’s work majorly focussed on the subjects of life, death, nature and the impact of these events on the world. Through her work, she was able to describe these phenomena to her audience and thus effectively communicate her perception regarding such issues. In the poem, There Came a Wind like a Bugle, Dickinson utilizes metaphors and similes to impart the message of calamity to her audience and the enduring nature of human beings in the face of such calamities.
Bloom, H. (Ed.). (2008)Emily Dickinson. Infobase Publishing.
Day-Lindsey, L. (2009). Emily Dickinson’s There Came a Wind like a Bugle. Explicator, 68(1), 29.